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Comic book benefit for cancer

BY SARAH LARSON | OCTOBER 12, 2009 7:20 AM

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The world has been splashed in pink. Cities are illuminating skyscrapers in hues of blush, and pink ribbons are being handed out on campus. Even sports have adopted the shade with Major League Baseball’s pink bats and NFL’s bright pink sweatbands. Why is everyone looking through rose-colored glasses?

It’s the 25th Anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

For North Liberty resident Jason Gavin, this month holds even more meaning. In December 2008, his older sister, Marla, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Just two months later, his mother, Bea, was also diagnosed. Both went through chemotherapy and radiation treatments and are now considered to be breast-cancer survivors.

After this emotionally draining ordeal, Gavin said, he wanted to do more than just donate money, so he decided to raise funds using an interest he’s had for a long time.

Comic books have been a hobby for him since fifth grade. He drew on this passion when he created the Marla Bea Benefit for the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI Hospitals and Clinics.

Gavin asked numerous comic-book artists from across the nation to donate a sketch or drawing centered on a strong female character or incorporating the color pink. These images will be auctioned off today on eBay — Marla’s birthday — check out www.marlabeabenefit.com.

Gavin said he never understood the importance of Breast Cancer Awareness month until he experienced it firsthand seeing his sister and mother going through chemotherapy.

“You hear about it,” he said. “Every October would come and go, and you’d see all the pink ribbons everywhere. But you really don’t understand it until you see your older sister and mom both going through it. It kind of makes your mortality hit home, and you realize that cancer is one of those things that can hit anybody at anytime … It was like a cause kind of just dropped in my lap, and I felt like I needed to do a little something to help out.”

Helping out has meant Gavin collecting more than 80 sketches from numerous comic-book artists.

One contributed sketch was of Power Girl, by Katie Cook, who has penned various books and cards such as Star Wars and X-Men Origins. Cook had a mentor in college who was a breast cancer survivor. The artist said she was amazed by how her mentor didn’t let breast cancer affect her and never complained — an attitude Cook admired. Then, when Gavin asked for sketches, she was happy to contribute.

“I think that what Jason is doing is wonderful,” Cook said. “He’s taking something that most people would consider a low point in his family and turning it into something amazing. He’s put a lot of hard work into organizing this and has gotten a lot of wonderful artists to participate.”

Tony Moore, a contributing artist of The Exterminators and The Walking Dead, also contributed a Batgirl sketch. Moore, whose wife’s father passed away from brain cancer a few years ago, was happy to help Gavin.

“We’ve known Jason for a few years from comic-book conventions, and my wife and I both think he’s a great guy,” Moore said. “When he told us about the benefit in his mom and sister’s honor, before he even finished his sentence, I was already on board. I think this benefit is really heartwarming. It speaks a great deal to Jason’s character, and it’s for a cause that I think just about anyone can get behind, whether you personally know Jason and his family or not.”


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